The release of Greta Van Fleet’s debut album was as huge as their classic rock sound. Sweeping the globe, Anthem of the Peaceful Army took this small four-man band from their hometown of Detroit, Michigan to their first world tour. Dubbed, the “march of the peaceful army”, Greta Van Fleet stormed the Enmore Theatre in Sydney for their very first show in Australia.
While Greta Van Fleet are a new band, their powerful hard rock sound is already perfectly suited to large arenas and big stadiums. Added to this is their penchant for elaborate improvisation and instrumental virtuosity, all combining to produce a band that performs like the legends of rock they so strongly evoke. As a result, the small intimate setting of the Enmore Theatre spoilt the sold-out crowd. The entire night evoked a classic rock vibe, from the bright lights, the raging mosh pit and gigantic speakers towering over the audience, to the hundreds of band t-shirts of rock legends like Cream, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Rolling Stones, Rush and Guns N’ Roses in the crowd. The audience was immediately thrown into this mood when opening acts Doors and The Struts played loud and proud. Songs like the Struts’ ‘Could Have Been’ had the whole mosh clapping, singing and stomping along to the heavy riffs and firm beat. The crowd had an aura of calm appreciation for the talent of the performers, mixed with a manic energy for the adrenaline provoking sound of the rock music. They had come for a rock show and the opening acts gave them exactly that.
As the lights faded and fog spread out over the crowd, the band made their way on stage. Opening with an unreleased track, the band used this as an opportunity to establish who they are. As older brothers Josh and Jake Kiskza’s melody soured in the high end, younger brother Sam and childhood friend Danny Wagner thumped away in the rhythm and bass section. Each one of these four men, who are in their young twenties and dressed as if Jimi Hendrix appeared in a Beatles animation, are some of the best musicians for their chosen instrument. Together, they are Greta Van Fleet.
After the opener, the band suddenly shifted gears, turning to their hit track ‘Highway Tune’. It might not be their best, but ‘Highway Tune’ is the most characteristic of the band itself. With the crowd head-banging in sync to Jake as he chugs along the deep guitar riff, Josh’s opening vocal howl was a thing of beauty to witness live. This opening howl bellowed out to the back of the room and reeled the audience in like an aural fishing net.
The band has a penchant for elaborate improvisation and instrumental virtuosity. Each member contributes to this, with Josh providing soft scat singing, Sam with his quick handed bass guitar licks and drummer Danny making the frantic pace look easy with each little fill between bars. However, the real standout across the performance was lead guitarist Jake’s multiple solos. Extending songs like ‘Edge of Darkness’ and ‘Flower Power’ to upwards of seven or eight minutes, he stood on the stage demanding the spotlight. His furious shredding captivated and entranced the audience, but his bravado, as he danced around the stage, flailing the guitar side to side and even playing behind his head at one point, entertained them.
As the oldies checked their hearing, the young people in the crowd knew that they had just experienced the closest they ever would to the classic rock bands on their shirts. The performance was exhausting in the best way possible. Combining adrenaline with musicianship, Greta Van Fleet simultaneously entertained and impressed everyone in the room. Whether the audience felt this performance was revival or imitation, they were happy that classic rock is back.